Lady Lions' 1-2 punch of Cheatham and Franco will be fun to watch on the basketball court
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport High School junior Sara Franco and senior Alexis Cheatham are world’s apart in height, but their hearts and collective basketball goals are more connected on the hardwood than most high school athletes.
The 6-2 dominating rebounder Franco and the 5-4, smooth dribbling and shooting court general Cheatham will lead head coach Bill Shaw’s new-look Lockport Lady Lions into the 2012-13 season, which begins today against visiting Section V-power Rush-Henrietta.
The 1-2 punch already have years of varsity experience under their belts, including pressure games like last year’s Section VI Class AA championship win over top-seeded Lancaster and the season-ending state Far West Regional loss to Penfield.
What they never were was the main focus of the Lady Lions’ attack, which they’ve stepped into confidently this winter, along with returning senior sharpshooter Carly Kane.
“Sara’s got to want the ball and control the glass at both ends of the court. I think she’ll do that,” Shaw said. “Alexis needs to make good decisions. We don’t normally look to our point guard for points, but she’s got a good outside shot and good moves to the basket. She’s capable of scoring. I think we’ll go as far as Lexi takes us. I think she could become one of the area’s best guards.”
Lost to graduation are the four, 3-year starters (Patti Burdick, Maggie Glenn, Marisa Guyton and Emma Sobieraski) who were members of a state-ranked unit that won sectional titles in three out of the last four years.
The good news this year, Shaw said, is that for the first time in many years, he has a roster deep in talent. “We might have 10 different starting lineups over the course of the season,” Shaw said.
The Lady Lions, 18-4 overall a year ago, are also returning several other key players, including senior Allie Cavagnaro, who’s also expected to see a lot of playing time and can fill several positions.
Fresh off a tremendous soccer season this fall is fleet-footed freshman Gretta Dry, who can play the two guard as well as point guard, sophomore Alyssa Wagner, who has looked strong in scrimmages, and versatile sophomore Hailey Bechtold, who can play inside and out, Shaw said.
Rounding out the LHS 11-player roster are juniors J’Vonna Clarke, Roserita DiMillo and Kennedy Smith; and sophomore Johanna Jenkins.
“Our goal is the same every year, to win an NFL championship and a sectional championship,” Shaw said. Grand Island has won the league title in each of the last two years, but Lockport won six in a row before that.
“Grand Island still has (Cassie) Oursler and Niagara Falls should do well. (Coach) Mike Esposito has done a tremendous job of getting that program turned around. Those two will be tough and Niagara-Wheatfield with their guards (Melissa) Smith and (Rachel) Pollock will be strong as well.”
Assisting Shaw again this season are Pete Dickinson and junior varsity head coach Jill DiTullio. The LHS trainer is Rosie Heinemann.